Electric trucks – the future of logistics?

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In April this year, Elon Musk showed off a teaser photo of Tesla’s proposed semi-truck tractor that Musk claims to have driven around the factory’s car park. This is due for release in September, but until then what is there out there?

Daimler – the big name

Daimler Benz is the automotive giant that has the jump on all other commercial vehicle companies where it comes to automation and commercial EVs. Its home country Germany’s government is very keen to get rid of fossil fuels from its economy altogether and all the major businesses out there are investing heavily in R&D into zero-emissions vehicles.

The Mercedes Benz Urban e-Trucks range of EVs are being sold to a select few customers in Germany with a view to live testing the technology to see what the prizes and pitfalls are of running e-trucks in the real world.

According to Clean Technica, “The trucks feature 212 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery packs, allowing for a range of around 124 miles per charge, according to the company. They feature front- and rear-mounted electric motors, providing a combined 250 kW (335 hp) and 737 lb-ft of torque. Payload capacity is rated up to 12.8 tons, with a permitted gross vehicle weight of 18-tons or 25-tons.”

You can probably see the chief weakness immediately – the range is pitiful for a lorry. At the European governed speed limit of 85kph, it would run out of juice in just under 1 hour 40 minutes, far less time than the driver even would drive between breaks. That rather limits these machines to short stop routes around cities.

Other companies already in the mix

EMOSS is a Dutch company that builds electric buses and lorries for short-range multi-drop deliveries. Well established in the UK and the Netherlands, it has quietly been building zero-emissions vehicles and does pretty well for itself, albeit without having grown to the point it could do damage to a major company such as Daimler or Tesla. Again, like Daimler, they build their vehicles to have a relatively short range, and depending on what your needs might be, could be the sensible option.

Ideal designs

Given the really annoying habit of other automotive companies in giving lorries and cars a range that is at best laughable, you might expect Tesla to do something different? Unlike its rivals, Tesla doesn’t take range for granted and when its EV truck does get built then it may well be able to compete with fossil-fuelled rivals on the road. In an ideal world, you will have something that will drive continuously over 4.5 hours – the same time as a driver can drive before taking a 45-minute break. It would then recharge in 45 minutes on a fast charger and then do the next 4.5 hours. You would, therefore, need a range of around 385km per charge. Given the Tesla Model S will do 300 miles per charge (considerably more than the 240 miles a lorry driver is limited to) then we know what the design range should be. Shall we go from there?

By Richard Shrubb

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